Beyond the BorderlinebyCPBaudelaire©
If you're madly, completely, head over heels in love, it's very easy to do things that you might not consider for even a moment if the blood isn't pumping, the heart racing, pussy juice flowing or the pre-cum oozing. Absolutely crazy stuff, like sixty-nining in the back seat of a car on the roof of a shopping mall parking garage, or loud oral sex in the backyard pool in broad daylight, where a neighbor could easily hear.
You tend not to think a lot about those risks, especially if you're not caught, because basically you aren't thinking. You're running on this highly combustible mix of testosterone, estrogen, lubrication and pheromones; a combination hormones, neurotransmitters run amok and blinding lust that pretty much cuts your higher brain centers right out of the loop of decision-making. Basically, you go nuts.
When you start talking about doing actually dangerous things in the cold light of day, like acquiring an illegal ID, well, now you've moved into an entirely different realm. Mom and I didn't have the faintest clue about how to go about something like that - all we knew was that we needed to start building our lives together, and that nothing was going to stand in the way of that. Yeah. Right.
Mom had essentially no useful resources to help us when it came to criminal law, that knowledge having been in her rear-view mirror since law school days. What she did have was contacts. She was the undisputed master of running down the chain of friends of friends of friends when it came to getting the information she needed. It was in this manner that we came to be acquainted Sam Schiller.
Sam was a retired NYPD police lieutenant, now double dipping by working as a P.I., having already put in some thirty-odd years on the force. He was not a disheveled, trench coated, unshaven boor with a three-quarters empty bottle of Jim Beam on his desk. You'd never guess his new profession based on his looks. He was slight of frame, with high and tight sandy hair slowly going to gray. His tired, soft brown eyes were usually framed by wire-rimmed bifocals. He was quiet, thin-lipped and calm. Walking past him on the street, you'd say to yourself "accountant" or "insurance adjuster."
In reality, he was a veteran of the internal affairs unit, a fifth degree black belt in Kwanmukan karate and a grandfather three times over. He was friendly, approachable and imperturbable. Above all else, he came recommended to Mom as being thoroughly discrete and reliable, specializing in taking care of those delicate, often embarrassing little problems that sometimes trouble the lives of those nice folks who tend to live on the Upper East Side overlooking Central Park.
After a preliminary phone conversation with Mom, Sam insisted on a face to face meeting with both of us. It was on those terms, or he wouldn't work with us. We got together at a local Denny's the next day. After introductions were made, Sam was brisk and to the point immediately.
"So, why does a prominent, respectable attorney need to talk with me about false identities?"
Mom and I had our cover story well rehearsed. She began, asking, " How much do you know about us, Mr. Schiller?"
"Sam, please call me Sam. I don't bite."
"Okay...Sam. Surely you've done your own background on us already. I'll be disappointed if you haven't checked up on us already. You have a reputation for being quite thorough."
"Yes, Ms. Lindermann," he replied carefully. "It's true I like to know what I'm getting myself into before I take on a new client."
"And what have you found out about us, so far?"
"That I have no idea why we're talking," he said bluntly. "There's nothing in either of your backgrounds to suggest a reason for contacting me. This means either your stated reason is a blind for some other inquiry, or you have a secret you're withholding from me. If it's a ruse, then we're done as of right now. If you are actually interested in what you say you are, but something else underlies your reasons for getting in touch with me, I'm intrigued. Somewhat concerned, but definitely curious."
Leaning back slightly in his chair, he regarded us coolly, taking our measure in some way. He then looked up at the ceiling and began speaking, as though delivering some internally composed report.
"Jennifer Marie Linderman, born 39 years ago in Dayton, Ohio, daughter and only child of the late Broderick and Marie Lindermann. (Sorry to hear of how they passed, a terrible way to lose your parents, just terrible). Education – home schooled as a senior, while pregnant with your son, Richard Alan, aged 22, born also in Dayton. Stayed with your folks when your father was transferred to corporate headquarters for McLelland Industries and attended Monmouth Community College, obtaining an associates degree in business administration, with distinction. Subsequently transferred to Rutgers, where you continued your studies in business, graduating Magna Cum Laude two years later. Worked part time for McLelland, courtesy of your father, while attending night law school. After obtaining your J.D., employed by March, Dufrense and Briggs, rising to become the first female partner in the firm after only four years, where you currently remain. Currently considered one of the ten best international business attorneys specializing in Canadian-American commerce. Your W2 income last year was $387,543, including approximately $122K in bonuses. Your profit sharing plan balance is about $198K and you have an additional $200K in your market portfolio. Doing quite well, if I do say so myself. Currently being considered for a seat on the board of directors for your firm."
Mom sat up straight, a small gasp of surprise escaping her lips.
"Oh, you didn't know that, did you?" Sam grinned. "I guess I owe Art Briggs an apology for letting that slip. You were going to be told next week."
Turning his gaze towards me, I felt more than a bit nervous, wondering how I ended up looking under his personal microscope.
"Richard Alan Lindermann, born twenty two years ago on March 23rd, a Tuesday, if I remember correctly. Father not listed on birth certificate. Honors graduate of Princeton Country Day School four years ago. Romantically linked with one Grace Chun Hei Kim, sophomore through senior years during high school. Attended Columbia University on a merit scholarship, commuting from home. No serious relationships while in college, with the exception of a two year liaison with your English professor, one Cassandra Ellis, aged 48," he continued, raising one eyebrow slightly. "Graduated Summa Cum Laude three months ago with a double major in Culinary History (an individual major, as I recall) and Business Administration. Employed in various capacities by Louis Joseph Agostino, proprietor and sole owner of Agostino's Ristorante since your sophomore year in high school. Known to speak passable French and Italian, courtesy of your culinary education at two different cooking schools, as part of your individual major."
Pausing for a breath, he continued, attention focused on me, stating matter of factly, "Your mother is not known to have had any long or short term relationships since you turned thirteen. The current office rumor is that she has recently become involved with a younger man, her first known serious relationship in some time," he said evenly, eyes never leaving my face.
How I managed to remain calm under his searching gaze, I'll never know, but I didn't even flush, although I had tingles running up and down my spine and my guts had congealed somehow in my shoes. I prayed that he couldn't see the goose bumps on my arms. At that moment, Mom broke in, saving me from any further scrutiny.
"Sam, are you aware of the circumstances surrounding Ricky's birth?"
"It's one of the bigger holes in your history. I had hoped we could talk about that. Is this connected in some way to your interest in meeting with me?"
"It is. Rick's biological father has recently resurfaced and has made an attempt to contact us," Mom lied smoothly.
"He's not a particularly nice person, Sam. To my knowledge, he's never done anything criminal, but certain things he said when he first called me have me worried. I want you to obtain IDs for us in the event we need to disappear. I consider this possibility very remote, but I learned a long time ago never to take anything for granted. I believe in thorough contingency planning, it's one of the reasons why I'm good at what I do. When it comes to my son's safety and my own, I'm not prepared to take any chances," she stated flatly. "That's why we're here today."
"Okay," Sam said, somewhat skeptically. "We'll leave it at that for now. I'm reasonably satisfied that you're not an embezzler or some other type of criminal, but I won't be a party to facilitating any kind of serious crime and if I find out you've been anything less than completely honest with me, well, I still have contacts inside the DA's office," he scowled warningly.
Taking a breath, he then relaxed visibly, turning his attention to Mom. "The first order of business is establishing plausible deniability. You need a reason to start poking around in this area. Here's how it'll work. Tomorrow some time, you'll receive a call from a potential client. The substance of your initial conversation will hint at a potentially lucrative bit of work, but you'll have reservations, something won't feel quite right. We'll call him, uhm, Mr. Robert Washington. You'll discuss the situation with Art Briggs, suggesting that a little checking is in order before getting involved. That's where I'll come in. I'll make it known to you and Art that something could be amiss."
"Under this guise, you and I will work together to see if your "client" is who he appears to be. This is how you will eventually get in touch with who you need to see."
"You certainly live up to your reputation, Sam," Mom said admiringly. "I'm very impressed. I think we can work together on this, no problems. And I give you my word, we don't have anything going on you need to worry about."
"Just see to it that things stay that way and we'll be fine."
With that, Mom nodded and slid an envelope across the table, saying, "Here's your retainer, Sam. Let me know when you need more for expenses."
Nodding curtly, Sam stood and left quietly, looking intently at me one more time before turning towards the door. I felt like I was in a marksman's sights until he left the restaurant.
"Mom," I whispered anxiously, " Do you think he suspects?"
Patting my hand reassuringly, Mom said, "No, darling, I think we're okay. He's just being careful and cautious. He's trying to push your buttons, thinking you're the weak link here, trying to get more information, feeling things out."
Chastely kissing my cheek, she added, "You did great, by the way. I thought you were very composed and handled yourself quite well."
"I think you've got the makings of a pretty good poker player, sweetie," she teased.
"Thanks, I guess. I can't wait 'til this is all over, though. By the way, why are you doing a passport as well? I thought the plan was for me only."
"It's got to be both of us if my cover story is going to hold any water, sweetheart. Just stay focused, Ricky. You probably won't have to interact much more with Sam. That will mostly be on me, and I know how to handle myself."
Over the succeeding days, Mom and Sam slowly spun their web together, generating a paper trail at the law firm and providing periodic "updates" to Art Briggs. Eventually, the legend for Mom's phantom client was complete, with the seed planted that a certain unsavory Russian expat had some useful information about who "Mr. Washington" really was. That information would be provided to us for a small financial consideration. Finally, the big day came and we had to go to the meet. Of course, we were actually getting our pictures taken for the IDs and making the payoff. Sam drove us to Brighton Beach, to introduce us to "Vanya," a frankly scary guy who would hook us up with the specialist.
Vanya, who was supposedly from Toronto, held forth from the back table of a small, nondescript café around the corner from the Tatiana Restaurant and Night Club, just off of Brighton Beach Drive. As we parked just down the street from his lair, I unfastened my seatbelt and started to open the door. Sam put his arm across me, forcing me back into my seat.
"Hold your horses, Rick. I don't like this."
"What's wrong, Sam?" Mom asked anxiously.
"That delivery van across from the cafe – this is the third time I've seen it here. It's not local – see, the plumber's listed as Staten Island. This doesn't feel right."
"What do we do now?" I swallowed hard. Mom and I had been in a state of high anxiety the whole time our little operation had been underway and to suddenly have a wrench in the plans was almost more stress than I could stand.
"Sit tight for the moment. I'm going to check things out. Both of you stay here. Jenny, get your scarf and hat again. Both of you, put your dark glasses on. I'll be right back."
Several interminable minutes later, Sam slipped back into the car. Without a word, he started the car, quietly pulled a U-turn and headed back towards New Jersey. He didn't say a word until we had come all the way down the Shore Parkway and were half way across the Verazzano Narrows Bridge.
"That was close," he said. "I think Vanya's under surveillance. I don't know who. Could be local, could be the Feds. I have no idea. We need to go to ground for a bit. I'll figure out something else and let you know in a few days. Sorry to disappoint you guys, but believe me, if there's some kind of op going down, we want to be long gone."
When we got home, Mom and I walked into the foyer and went directly to the family room. She poured three fingers of brandy into a couple of snifters and handed one to me without a word. A couple of gulps steadied me, but Mom downed hers in one long pull and then immediately poured herself another, sitting heavily on the sofa.
"You okay, Mom?"
"Yes, dearest. Just a lot of anxiety. We were very close to getting involved in something that would have blown right up in our faces."
"Do you think we should back off, rethink our plans? I don't want you to be so stressed, pretty lady. We could try to figure something else out," I said soothingly.
Mom reached over to interlace her fingers with mine, squeezing hard.
"Thanks honey, you're so sweet, but I'll be okay. I still trust Sam. I think we'll be fine. Let's wait to see what his Plan B is before we decide anything else, okay?"
"If you're good with it, I'm fine too, Mom."
We had hoped to hear from Sam shortly, but nothing happened. He didn't return any of Mom's messages or texts and slowly, a day or two turned into more than a week. Mom and I were starting to really worry. With no contact from Sam, our anxiety gradually built every day, the uncertainty and unknown future gradually morphing into a conviction that our secret had been discovered and the axe was soon to fall on our necks.
Every night, we held each other close, not knowing if it might be the last time we could do so. Finally, it all got to be too much and we fled the house, opting to spend the weekend on the Delaware shore, near Cape Henlopen. We lived on take-out, spending nearly the whole time making love in our motel room, interspersed with occasional walks on the near empty, off-season beaches. Our couplings were frantically intense and almost unbearably emotional, ending as often in mutual tears as kisses, but neither of us was willing to openly acknowledge why. We were both deathly afraid of what might be waiting for us at home.
Sunday night came and the thought of returning to New Jersey was unbearable. I felt like a soldier about to embark on a suicide mission, with no hope of return or redemption. Mom must have felt the same, because she broke down and called into her office, saying she was taking a sick day on Monday and we spent one last, intense night together. Neither of us wanted to sleep much. We stayed up nearly the whole night, just holding each other between bouts of almost desperate lovemaking. Finally, the inevitable could no longer be postponed and we made the drive back to home bleary-eyed, in nearly complete, funereal silence, Mom's hand tightly clasped in mine for the entire journey.
We arrived home near dusk and our worst fears seemed to materialize immediately in front of us. Sitting in our driveway was a black Crown Vic with high-frequency antennas. As we pulled in, Sam got out of the passenger side and a tall black man in a three-piece suit joined him. Hand shaking, Mom lowered her window and Sam leaned in. I put my hand on her shoulder to steady her.
"Hello, Jenny, Rick," he said neutrally. "I'd like you to meet Assistant District Attorney Tyrone Marquand."